Sunday, November 15, 2009

Black Bean Patties

Dear Daughter is coming home over Thanksgiving weekend (with a "friend" no less), and Philip's Fast (Advent for you non-Orthodox) begins today, so I wanted to start laying in a supply of yummy vegan foods in my freezer. The first thing I made were these yummy, south of the border flavored black bean patties. They are individually wrapped in my freezer, and just need a little bake in the toaster oven, or in a frypan, or even just a quick thaw! I think that next time, I'll add a half cup of corn kernals - if I do that, I think I'll get 9 or 10 out of this recipe. You can flavor these any way that you like - I made mine kind of Mexican.

South of the Border Black Bean Patties

3 C well-cooked black beans
1/2 - 1 tsp salt (I used Adobo seasoning)
1 heaping tsp ground cumin
1 heaping tsp Italian seasoning (need that bite of oregano here)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 C dry bread crumbs (I used Italian)
2 - 3 Tbs finely minced onion
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 C water
1/4 C flour (for dredging)
Olive oil for frying

Mash first nine ingredients together, but leave some of the beans chunky for a nice texture. The breadcrumbs will make it very dry, so add up to 1 C water to make it a stiff, but still moist, consistency - a consistency that can easily be formed into balls or patties. Taste for salt and heat. Form into eight patties - I made slightly oval ones that will fit nicely into half a pita. On a nonstick grill, I sprayed a little pure olive oil and browned them well on both sides.

Once they cooled off, I wrapped them individually and froze them. I plan on serving these with lettuce, onion, olives, peppers and salsa, and maybe a dollop of vegan sour cream substitute in half a pita. I think my college-age daughter and her guest will enjoy these as lunch or a snack.

If I can, I'll take a photo when they eat them.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Vegetable Paella

So.... I'm still experimenting with my handy dandy rice cooker, and this recipe is a keeper! Not only is it quick and easy, it is also beautiful and delicious! Alas, no photos because my camera is nowhere to be found, but trust me when I say it looks as beautiful as it tastes.

I love paella. Its a comfort food from my childhood for me. When I was a child, my father drove my mother and me all the way from Boston to Mexico to spend the winters. We spent four or five winters traveling around Mexico, until it was time for me to go to grammar school. My mother often told the story of how she was knitting on the beach while watching me dig in the sand, and this delicious aroma kept wafting towards her, making her mouth water. Eventually, she gathered me up, followed her nose, and found a man cooking a huge pan of paella. She described a pan about 3 feet in diameter, set over a wood fire, bubbling away. The fishermen pulled their boats into shore and the seafood that they caught was cleaned right there and tossed into the bubbling mixture. When it was done, Mom purchased a portion and we ate it right there on the beach and she was a paella convert! Her Spanish was passable, and she was an excellent experienced cook, so all she really needed was a list of ingredients, which she charmed out of the man cooking the paella, and we've been eating paella ever since.

Paella is usually made with combination of fish, seafood, and another meat which could be chicken, pork or sausage. In my home while growing up, it was usually fish, seafood, chicken and sausage. It was a festiive, exotic, expensive dish with a real WOW factor, particularly in snowy Boston in the 1950s and 1960s, which was about as far away from sunny Mexico as you can get, so it was reserved for company or special occasions, like my high school graduation party. When I had my own home, I also made paella for guests - it was one of my go-to meals, along with chicken cooked in wine from my grandmother's recipe, kibbe and grape leaves, and an old fashioned pot roast.

But now I am a vegetarian, and I have a fridge full of beautifully fresh produce, as well as a nearly new rice cooker...... So, here is what I did:

Vegetable Paella
2 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 scant tsp Italian herbs (use this rather than Herbes de Provence, because you really need the bite of oregano)
1 tsp sweet paprika (I used smoked)
1 large yellow crookneck squash, in 3/4" cubes
1 large zucchini in 3/4" cubes
1/8 tsp cayenne
2 tsp Vogue Veggie Base powder or other bouillion powder
1 10 oz can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chiles, mild, drained with juice reserved
pinch saffron
1 1/2 C risotto rice (Arborio, Carnaroli, Valencia, or other medium grain rice)
water & tomato juice mixed to make 2 C
1 C frozen peas
1/2 C sliced black olives

Set the cooker to regular white rice cycle and coat the bottom of the pan with the oil. Mix water into the reserved tomato juice until you have 2 C, and then soak the saffron in it while you prepare the vegetables. As you chop the veggies, put them in the hot pan, starting with the onion, and stir. When all the veggies except the peas and olives are in the pot, stir in the rice, then stir in all the herbs, spices and bouilliion powder. Stir in the liquids, making sure that all the ingredients and flavorings are well distributed. Close the pot and reset for the regular white rice cycle. When the cycle finishes, sprinkle the peas and olives on top, close the cover, and let steam for five minutes. Open the cover, stir the peas and olives into the rice, taste for salt and pepper, and eat until you simply can't eat any more!

This was yummy with a glass of white wine and a slice fresh plum clafouti with yogurt and honey for dessert.

Paella can easily be made in very large quantities on top of the stove as well. Simply follow the proportions of rice to liquid to vegetables and follow the cooking times on your bag of rice.

My Mom and I have found that cooking paella the traditional way, much like risotto - in an open pan with liquids being added gradually - takes a variable amount of time to cook, so years ago, she opted to simmer it in a closed pan like cooking a regular pot of rice, with no loss in texture or flavor, but with a reliable cook time. Try it both ways and see what works best for you.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Israeli Couscous

I treated myself to a new kitchen appliance for Mother's Day.

Years ago, I loved my rice cooker, but I hated the clean up - everything crusted on the bottom and it was difficult to scrub it out. The more I scrubbed, the more things sticked. But... it cooked rice beautifully and it left my stove top free for other pots and pans. I don't know what happened to that rice cooker - in one of my moves it disappeared, I guess.

I've been reading about the new fuzzy logic rice cookers that can do so many things and decided that I would get one. Dear daughter is home from college for the summer and eats a lot of rice and pasta, so I figured it would get quite a work out. After researching it online, I settled on what I believe is the best combination of price and utility and purchased an Aroma 8 cup cooker with a nonstick pan, steaming basket and settings including keep warm, steam, white rice and brown rice. There's a photo of it at the end of the post. I've been playing with it all week.

The first thing I made was not-fried rice which was pretty good, but needs some tweaking before I send it off into cyberspace. However, the second thing I made is a real keeper - Israeli couscous!

A couple of months ago, I noticed a bin of Israeli couscous at my local health food store and brought some home without a clue as to what to do with it. Couscous is just pasta, really, and Israeli couscous is large, individual pearls, maybe 1/16th inch in diameter. They remind me very much of the pasta called pastina which is often used in Italian wedding soup, just larger. I was a little apprehensive about cooking pasta in the rice cooker - I am Italian, after all - but the rice cooker cooked them to perfection with slight al dente bite to them. I can't wait to try other pastas, now!

Israeli Couscous in the Rice Cooker
1/2 onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 C Israeli couscous
2 C water
3 tsp veggie broth powder
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp Herbes de Provence

Add the olive oil, onion and carrots to the cooker and press the white rice button. Let the veggies cook for a few minutes while you get everything else ready. Then, add all the above ingredients, stir well, and press the white rice cycle again. While the rice is cooking, get the garnishes ready:

2 oz nicoise olives, pitted and chopped
8 oz frozen peas
2 Tbs pepitas or other nut or seed for some crunch

When the cooking cycle is done, stir the garnishes in, and close the cover for a minute or two to make sure that the peas are steamed a bit and fully defrosted.

Dear daughter dislikes peas, but with a little coaxing, she will eat them, so I was hesitant about putting them in this dish. However, they've been sitting in my freezer for a while and I wanted something green in the dish and in they went. After her first bite, DD exclaimed, "Hey, I think I actually like peas this way!" What a victory for dear old Mom, huh? Maybe your pea-hater will like them too! It looked so pretty, too, nice enough for guests, I think.

This would serve 5 or 6 as a side dish as is and probably 3 or 4 people as a main dish with the addition of half a can of chickpeas.

Next time, I'm going to try using some lemon juice or wine in the couscous, I think.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Quick Vegan Corn Chowder

I'm from New England, the land of chowders, which is fortunate, because I absolutely love chowder. Basically, a chowder is a soup which always contains milk, onions and potatoes, and is usually thickened with flour. Most people add seafood, like clams or crab or fish, or ham, but I like corn chowder best! Yes, corn chowder is my most favorite chowder. With all of the nondairy cream and milk available, its easy to make a vegan chowder, and that is what I did. I usually don't thicken my chowders with flour; instead, I mash up some of the potato until it is the consistency that I want. If you want potato soup, add another potato at the beginning and leave out the corn. Simple as that!

Quick Vegan Corn Chowder
4 large potatoes (about 2 lbs), peeled and diced in 1/2 inch cubes
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
olive oil for sauteeing
1 Tbs veggie broth powder
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 heaping Tbs salt (I use Adobo Seasoning Salt which adds a slight yellow color and garlic flavor)
generous pinch each of: rosemary, sage and marjoram
2 generous pinches thyme
4 C water
2 C corn kernals
2 C nondairy creamer
1 Tbs non-dairy margerine like Earth Balance

Saute the onions, carrots, celery and potatoes in olive oil until onions are transparent and veggies are starting to soften. Add cayenne, salt, rosemary, sage, marjoram and thyme and saute for another minute. Add the broth powder, then pour in the water and stir well. Simmer for 15 minutes until all the veggies are very tender. Use a potato masher or a hand-held immersion blender to puree the veggies, giving the soup more body. I prefer to use the potato masher because it leaves a white colored soup with little orange and pale green flecks which is so pretty! Pour in the creamer and the corn, and heat until the corn and soup are piping hot. Adjust seasonings. Serve with a little shaving of margerine on top for added richness.


Chowders lend themselves to endless variations in spicing and ingredients, but sometimes its nice to chow down on a plain old New England classic like corn chowder.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


My father, Edmour Joseph Babineau, died January 23, 2009, and tomorrow we will celebrate the traditional 40 day memorial (in greek: parastas, in slavonic: panikhida) for him at church. We Orthodox remember the dead at every service, and on specific "soul" Saturdays in Lent, but tomorrow is special. There are special prayers for the soul as it departs from the body at the moment of death, and we hold what is called a memorial service on the 3rd, 9th, and 40th day, as well as at the 3 month, 6 month, 9 month and one year mark, and every year following. The 40th day is a echo of Christ's Ascension into heaven, and we will pray that Dad will also ascend to Heaven to spend eternity with God

I just finished making the memorial wheat for this service. This is variously known as koliva, hilbee, or kutia, depending on your ethnicity. A plate of this sweet wheat rests on the memorial table throughout Divine Liturgy and during the Memorial itself, after which all the congregation will partake of it. We boil wheat as a remembrance that mankind is placed in the earth like a seed, only to be raised up and blossom forth again through God's plan and power. This is a powerful reminder for Orthodox Christians of the words of St. John 12:24 "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." The symbolism of death and resurrection, between that which is planted in the ground and that which emerges, is deeply embedded in the making and eating of koliva.

My father really loved memorial wheat and sometimes I would make it for him and mother as a breakfast treat. As I was chopping and toasting the nuts and seeds, I remembered happy times around that very same kitchen table: the four of us laughing and eating, or helping Elisabeth with her school work, or doing the crosswords, or just sipping coffee and deciding where to picnic the next day. Happy times, gone now.

But I'm not sad, I'm really not. My father was trapped in a body and a mind that failed him, and he's free now. I miss him, but that is nothing new - with Alzheimer's, the missing starts very early. And its not forever, you know. We'll meet again at the last. I am thinking a lot of him today, though. Here is the eulogy that I wrote for him and which was read so very beautifully by my dear friend, Carla McCurry:

Edmour Joseph Babineau
April 25, 1916 - January 23, 2009

Here are some remarks that Denise wrote about her father, which she has asked me to read to you today.

How do you measure a man’s life? Is it in the days, months, years? If so, at 92 years old, my father was rich. Is it in his possessions? If so, then I look at my father’s few mementos, the fishing poles, handles worn smooth through many years use, or maybe his trusty camera with all the lenses and filters and tripods, and think that perhaps my father was poor. Is it in the memories that a man leaves behind? Over the last few days, I’ve heard from countless people who knew my father, all of whom had their favorite, funny “Eddie” story. Maybe it was the one about the tomatoes that were so big that he had to cut them in half to get them in the door, or maybe it was the liver Popsicles, or maybe it was a memory of going fishing or golfing with him. Always, the memories were of laughter and fun. If memories measure a man’s life, then my father was rich.

Those of you who met my father when he was an old man missed out on so much. He was a real character - a great storyteller, unfailingly good humored, very smart, funny, loyal, brave, loving, a steadfast champion of the underdog, and could fix anything. He had a gluttonous love of cherry ice cream and Boston baked beans, though not together!

He loved his family more than anything. He passed his love of yardsaleing on to his granddaughter, Elisabeth. Together, they would hit the yardsales early on Saturday mornings, and haggle over prices, bringing home their treasures.

All his life, he loved traveling to new places and meeting new people. His Sunday drives for ice cream – to another state! – were legendary. He always said that someday he was going to buy a trailer and travel around the country. How many people get to live their dream? Well, my father did. He loved traveling in his motor home and did so for 15 years before settling down in Savannah. In that 27 footer, he traveled throughout the US, Canada and Mexico with my mom. He loved fishing and golfing, and was a seeded tennis player and professional boxer in his day. He was a real war hero, decorated in WWII and written up in the newspapers of the time.

My favorite memory of my parents is creeping downstairs early in the morning to the kitchen, and finding them dancing all alone to music only they could hear. He took tender care of my mother for many years, and never once complained.

He was a wonderful, loving, devoted husband, father and grandfather. He was a true gentleman, a charming raconteur and practical joker. He was honorable and true. He was everything a man should be and seldom is. He was one in a million, and we were so very lucky to have had him in our lives for almost 93 years. The world will be a sadder place without him. My daughter and I will miss him very much.

But right now, I think he’s standing just inside the pearly gates, the host extraordinaire, greeting newcomers as St. Peter’s right hand man, saying as he always used to at the Inn: “Welcome! Come on in. I have a special room just for you.”

Here is my recipe for Koliva, enough for home. For my church, I usually double it. I do not like it to be dry, so I leave out the zweiback or graham cracker crumbs.

1 C soft wheat (very important - it must be soft, not hard, wheat)
1/2 C chopped nuts, like walnuts, toasted
1/2 C sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 C golden raisins
1/2 C chopped fruit (I like to use craisins)
1 heaping tsp ground cinnamon
1 C powdered sugar
zest of one orange
1 tsp anise seed, crushed a little

Simmer the wheat in 4 cups of water for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until very tender and cooked all the way through. Drain well and place in a large bowl with all the other ingredients. Stir very, very well to make sure that all the ingredients are mixed well. Let cool.

Once it is cool, place it in a flat serving platter. Smooth the top and decorate with silver dragees, jordan almonds, or other white candies in the shape of a three bar cross. I've used yogurt covered raisins when I couldn't get jordan almonds here in Savannah, and these work very well.

Enjoy. And if you make this, please, say a little prayer for my father as you eat it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Kale Braised with Carmelized Onions and Rutabagas

One thing I've learned about cooking is that you can never have too many carmelized onions! They are so very delicious that sometimes I eat them as a vegetable. I should have gone food shopping yesterday, but didn't want to brave the Saturday crowds, so I had a look in the fridge to see what I could put together. I had a lovely bunch of curly kale and a medium-sized rutabaga as well as a few onions, so this dish was born. Its really a riff on Italian minestra, which is garlicky greens and beans, and southern-style turnip greens with turnips. Whatever it is, it certainly is delicious - so delicious that I ate half of it in one sitting. Luckily, its pretty healthy, so no problem. The rest was packaged up for work lunches this coming week.

Kale Braised with Carmelized Onions and Rutabagas
2 Tbs butter or margerine
4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 onions halved and sliced very thin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 Tbs smoked paprika
1 Tbs garlic salt/Adobo seasoning
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 bunch curly kale
2 Tbs water

In a large pot with a tight fitting lid, melt half the butter and 1 Tbs of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute, stirring often, for about 10 minutes until starting to carmelize and brown. Add the remaining oil, minced garlic, rutabaga, paprika, salt and pepper, stir well so that everything is coated with oil and spices. Turn heat down to medium, cover tightly, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring twice, until rutabagas are just barely tender. Add water to keep from sticking if necessary - this should not be necessary if your pot is nonstick. Uncover, add the kale and stir well. Cover again and let steam for about 4 - 5 minutes, until kale is wilted. Stir well and adjust for salt and pepper.

The onions continued to carmelize as the other veggies were cooking and ended up sweet and almost sticky, as did the rutabagas, which also were beginning to carmelize. This would be yummy with a spritz of lemon juice, or even balsamic vinegar to cut the buttery richness of the oil. I used Earth Balance spread rather than butter, since that's what I had in the house (Lent is upon us, you know), and it was yummy. I think this would be a fabulous base for a pasta salad - just stir in about a half pound of pasta, cooked al dente.

Again, I have no photo, and I apologize. I've unpacked the camera, but haven't found the charger yet, so photos will have to wait. Suffice it to say that this was a very pretty dish, with the small orange cubes peeking out from the dark green of the kale. In the meantime, I'll continue posting vegan recipes with photos from the archives of my omni cooking blog.

In the Orthodox Church, the Rite of Forgiveness at vespers this Sunday afternoon is the official beginning of the fast, of Great Lent. Every person in the parish, from the youngest to the oldest, will line up and ask forgiveness of each other for what they have done and what they have failed to do during the past year. There is always much hugging and many tears as hurts are forgiven. It never fails to move me, and humble me as well. So, in the spirit of Forgiveness Sunday, dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to forgive me for my sins and offenses, for what I have done and what I have failed to do, for how I have consistently missed the mark and fallen short of Christ's example.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gujerati Cabbage and Carrots with Red Lentil Dal over rice

Dear daughter and I have been hankering for some Indian food for a while, so tonight I made a simple meal. First I made the cabbage and carrots from a recipe by Madhur Jaffrey and let it sit at room temperature while DD made the Lebanese style rice and I made the dal.

About the rice - I don't have a real recipe for this - I just do what my mother-in-law did. She was a really fantastic Lebanese cook. All you really do is to replace some rice with pasta, either broken angel hair or fideos. Melt about a tablespoon of vegan margerine in a pan, toss in the pasta and saute until it turns golden brown. Be careful because you don't want it to burn at all. Then add the long grain rice and stir for a minute until each grain is coated with the margerine as if you were making risotto. Then add the water and salt, cover and cook as usual. This is pretty much the only way we eat rice - we never eat plain rice anymore.

Madhur Jaffrey's Gujerati Cabbage and Carrots

3/4 lb cabbage, shredded
3/4 lb carrots, shredded
1 fresh green chili, julienned or 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
2 Tbs vegetable oil (not olive)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs mustard seeds
1 whole dried red chili
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
4 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbs lemon juice

Heat oil in a 10" skillet that has a cover. Add garlic and red chili, then the mustard seeds, and stir to coat. Cover the skillet until the mustard seeds have mostly stopped popping. Uncover, add the cabbage and carrots and green chili (or red chili flakes), reduce heat to medium, and stir fry until tender-crisp. Add the salt, sugar and cilantro, stir well, and finally, add the lemon juice and stir to combine. Let sit for half an hour to combine flavors. This is good hot, room temperature, or cold.

Red Lentil Dal

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 med bay leaf
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 inch of ginger, peeled and grated or minced
1 tsp salt
1 C red lentils
3 C water

In saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic for a minute or two, then add everything except the lentils and water, and saute until the onions are translucent and fragrant with the spices. Add the lentils and stir to mix well so that all the lentils are coated with the onions and spices. Add the water, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes until the lentils are soft and beginning to melt. Stir vigorously to help them melt a bit more. Taste for salt. Serve over rice.

Notes: I didn't use a grater for my carrots - I used a plain old vegetable peeler to peel strips of carrot. I think it made for a more attractive presentation, and it helped to keep the carrot nicely crunchy. I recently bought a tube of pureed ginger and used that in lentils. I think that this is an ok product in that it cuts down on spoilage, but it certainly doesn't have the fragrance, flavor or heat the fresh ginger does. I ended up using about 2 heaping tablespoons of the stuff. In future, I'll leave this product at the grocery store and take my chances with fresh ginger which tends to become shriveled in my vegetable drawer before I use it all. Even with that, I think that fresh ginger is a better deal.

Lima Bean Dip

Last weekend, some friends brought dinner over to my house and I was left with a lot of leftovers, including about 1 1/2 cups of southern style lima beans. Since dear daughter bemoaned the fact that we have absolutely NO dip left in the house last night, I decided to make a dip from the limas. Limas are really good for dips because they are quite mealy and soft, and because they firm when they are cooled. This is what I did this morning:

Lima Bean Dip

1 1/2 C cooked lima beans (or one can)
approx 1 Tbs minced onion
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp Tony Chacheres (or any spicy seasoning salt of your choice)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 C lemon juice
1/4 C olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In the food processor, I first finely minced a 1/2 inch slice of a very small onion which yielded about 1 Tbs of minced onion. Add the limas, garlic, seasoning salt, cumin and lemon juice to the bowl and process till smooth. Taste for seasonings and adjust salt and pepper. With processor running, drizzle olive oil through the feeder until you reach the consistency you want. I used about 1 1/2 Tbs.

This tastes really delicious. This afternoon, after the flavors meld, I'll taste it again and post any changes I may make.

Broiled Pears with Amaretto-Apple Dip

Tonight we ate leftover Tuscan White Bean Soup with garlic bread for dinner, but we really, really wanted a nice dessert. Tonight is my rehearsal night for I Cantori, so I just couldn't spend much time cooking, so I offered my daughter a piece of fruit for dessert. No go. She wanted something a little less simple. I decided to broil two bosc pears until almost carmelized and provide a dip. Oh boy, was this GOOD, and simple... and something that will lend itself to all kinds of variations. This one is going right into my recipe box.

Broiled Pears with Amaretto-Apple Dip

2 firm, but ripe, bosc pears, cut into eights lengthwise
2 Tbs cinnamon sugar
1/2 C vanilla soy yoghurt
1/4 C apple butter
2 Tbs amaretto

I used my toaster oven for this dish.

Lightly oil (or spray) a rimmed cooking sheet. Place the wedges of pear on the sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar. Broil until the tips of the pears begin to carmelize, about 20 - 30 minutes. While the pears are cooking, make the sauce. Stir together the yoghurt, apple butter and amaretto. Try not to eat it all before your family has a chance to taste it. Or, double the amounts and eat half right away while hiding in the pantry with the door closed and serve the other half to your family with the pears. Its THAT good!

Note: Obviously, this would work well with apples or bananas, but I think any stone fruit would be delicious as well, such as plums, apricots, nectarines, or even Georgia peaches! Pineapple slices broil extremely well as well. Any kind of preserves should be good with the yogurt for the dip. You could add toasted nuts to the dip, or sprinkle the broiled fruit with coconut.

Serves 2

Tuscan White Bean Soup

Sometimes you just want a nice soup with some garlic bread for dinner, don't you? I love soup - I could eat it every day. I had a few yellow crookneck squash sitting in my fridge, and I wanted soup, so I decided to make a white bean soup with them. Everything is cooked al dente, so that each spoonful bursts in your mouth with flavor. I just love this soup. Its even better with some vegan parmesan sprinkled over the top.

Tuscan White Bean Soup

2 C cooked or canned white beans (try cannelini beans - they are yummy!)
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 Tbs minced garlic
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil to saute
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 med zucchini or yellow squash, chopped
8 oz fresh mushrooms or 2 oz dried mushrooms, soaked
1 15 oz can of veggie broth
4 C water
2 tsp Herbes de Provence
1 bay leaf
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 C soup pasta, pre-cooked al dente

In 5 quart dutch oven, saute onions and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the celery and zucchini and saute till toasty. Season with salt and pepper and Herbes de Provence. Add mushrooms and saute till they have released their liquid, or, add dried mushrooms and reserve soaking liquid. Add the beans, tomatoes with their juice, bay leaf, and the veggie broth. Measure the mushroom soaking liquid and add water to make 4 cups. Simmer lightly for 20 minutes for flavors to develop. Taste for salt, pepper and seasoning.

You may cover and refrigerate at this point. To serve, bring to a simmer and drop in about 1 1/2 cups of pre-cooked soup pasta and heat through. Taste for seasonings. Serve with a splash of lemon juice, a sprinkle of vegan parmesan cheese and garlic toast.

Notes: This is a very forgiving soup - you can use pretty much any combination of vegetables that you have, as long as you cook them al dente and you use a white bean, such as cannellini, great northern, or even navy beans. I think small green limas would be nice also, as well as borlotti or cranberry beans.

For dessert, we had broiled pears with amaretto-apple dip. I'll post that shortly.

Time: 40 minutes in total

Serves about 8

Hash Brown Scramble

This morning we were pretty hungry and wanted something really stick-to-your ribs good. After having a quick look in the fridge and pantry, I decided on some kind of hash browns. My mom always made homemade hash browns and I always do too, especially since they take just a couple of minutes to prep and taste so delicious!

Hash Brown Scramble

2 med sized russet potatoes, peeled, in 1/2 inch dice
2 small onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil
1 12-oz box of extra firm MoriNu tofu, drained and crumbled
pinch tumeric
1/4 C chopped parsley
1 tsp Herbes to Provence
salt and pepper to taste OR use seasoning salt and herb mixtures of your choice

In a large fry pan, saute the potatoes in about 1 Tbs of oil for a couple of minutes while you chop the onions. When the onions are ready, toss them in, along with the minced garlic. Season with seasoning salt and pepper. Saute the onions for about five minutes until they are about halfway cooked (a sharp knife point will just pierce a potato cube, but still meet some resistance). Add in other veggies, if you are using them (see note below). Saute some more, adding another tablespoon of oil if necessary, or adding a bit of liquid like broth or water to keep everything from sticking. You want the potato and onion to be fully cooked and golden brown, but still retain its shape. A few minutes before the potatoes are perfect, add in the crumbled tofu, and stir well. Taste - you will probably need to add some more salt and pepper, and this is the time to add some herbs as well, like parsley and Herbes de Provence. Stir until the tofu and potatoes are dry - just a minute or two.

We made pita sandwiches out of this with some of the spicy black bean dip I made earlier in the week. This was a delicious combo which tasted very buttery, which is odd because there were no dairy products used at all. But it sure was yummy!

Notes: I wanted to make the tofu look slightly yellow, more like scrambled eggs, and I used way too much tumeric, as you can see from the photo. Next time, I might just use a pinch of tumeric mixed into the crumbled tofu before I add it to the potatoes, or I might just leave it au naturel. You can add lots of other veggies to this, like chopped celery or peppers. Occasionally my mom would add really good oil cured olives to hash browns, maybe about a dozen, which she pitted and chopped and believe me, there is NOTHING that tastes better than potatoes with olives! Some halved cherry tomatoes would also work well, as would some chopped zucchini or other summer type squash. I happen to be in love with three salty spice mixes: Soul Seasoning, Tony Chachere's and Cavender's Greek Seasoning - you may have your favorites, so use the flavors that YOU like. Instead of salt and pepper, I used about a tsp of Tony Chachere's.

This would be delicious with curry powder and peas!

Try this with cumin and chili powder, and then rolling it up in a tortilla with some salsa!

A note about frozen hash browns: Try dicing your own potatoes instead of spending a lot of money on these. It really doesn't take much more time, maybe about five minutes or so, and not only will you save a lot of money, but you will have superior nutrition and save all the added salt and sugar that are in most processed potato products. This is one case when the convenience food is not more convenient, IMHO.

Time from potato bin to mouth: 25 minutes

Roasted Veggies on the Side

Have you ever roasted veggies? They are really delish. In fact, I think roasting veggies are my most favorite way of preparing them. I don't really have a recipe for roasted veggies but this is what I do.

The size of the veggies is very important, because you want all your veggies to be ready at the same time. I quartered the small potatoes and cut larger potatoes in sixths. This balanced the cooking time of the baby carrots. Next I cut the yellow crookneck squash in about 2 inch chunks, since they cook quicker. I drizzled all with a good amount of olive oil - enough to coat each vegetable and to leave a tablespoon or two on the bottom of the pan. Then I sprinkled them with herbs, about a tablespoon (I like herbes de Provence for this), a tablespoon of minced garlic, and about a good teaspoon of seasoned salt (I use Soul Seasoning from Gold Medal). Toss well, and cook in a preheated 450F oven for about 30 minutes, tossing every ten minutes, until the veggies are all cooked through and beginning to carmelize. Pretty much any vegetable can be roasted: try broccoli (my personal fave), asparagus, brussels sprouts, string beans, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, any kind of squash or potato, mushrooms, parsnips, peppers.

What do you do with leftover roasted veggies? Well, other than just eating them because they are so darn GOOD, they make a wonderful frittata, especially if there are still a goodly number of potatoes. Also, take a page from Giada DiLaurentiis, who roasts veggies, then tosses them with pasta and dresses them with lots of olive oil and parmesan (use vegan parmesan - there are some really delicious ones out there nowadays) for the most delicious pasta primavera you will ever eat. I have made her omni recipe many times, and it gets rave reviews every time, especially at lunch at church. Here is her recipe:,,FOOD_9936_25693,00.html Roasted veggies make a wonderful soup, and they also taste very good chopped into a pot pie. But I never have enough leftovers to fool around with - we always eat them all up!

Caponata and Muffaletta

Caponata and Muffaletta....... Don't be afraid of the odd sounding names or the long list of ingredients. These are quick and easy to make, and so very delicious that they will become favorites in your house.

What is the difference, anyway? They are both delicious vegetable mixtures that are used as either a salad or a pickle, with Caponata being the Italian version and Muffaletta being the Cajun version. Caponata is cooked and always contains eggplant; muffaletta is marinated and always contains olives. I love them both and have two killer recipes.

This will be a splurge for us, but we haven't gone out to eat, not even to get McDonalds fries in weeks! We've been sooooo good about our food budget that I think we can handle the specialty items like artichoke hearts.... I'll decide which one I make after I go food shopping later on today, and will post a photo then.

So, what do you DO with these two zesty vegetable mixtures anyway? Well, certainly you can use them as a garnish for burgers and patties... I've put them on pizza! My daughter eats them as a dip, scooping huge mouthfuls out with pretzels.

But my favorite is as a sandwich filling. What you do is take a round loaf of bread and cut the top off. Pull out the insides so you have a bread bowl. Layer some caponata, then sliced vegan provolone cheese, sliced tomatoes, vegan cold cuts and baked tofu or seitan, then repeat. Put the lid on the bowl, wrap in aluminum foil, and bake in a slow oven for about 15 minutes so that everything is nice and hot and melty. Let sit for another 15 minutes (or until it reaches room temp, even). Then cut wedges and enjoy. Yum! Its also great mixed with pasta for a nice pasta salad.

1 C chopped green olives
1 C chopped celery
1 carrot, peeled and sliced very, very thin
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C chopped artichoke hearts
3 green onions sliced or 1/2 C minced sweet onion (like Vidalia)
1/4 C lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1 C chopped black olives
1/2 C chopped pimentos
1/2 C chopped cauliflower florets
1/4 C chopped fresh parsley
3 - 4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbs capers
1 tsp Herbes de Provence, or equal parts of oregano, basil and thyme
1 tsp hot cajun seasoning like Tony Chachere's (E's favorite spice)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all together well, cover tightly, and let marinate in the fridge at least overnight.

1 eggplant cut in 1/2 inch cubes (about 1.5 - 2 lbs)
3 med zucchini in 1/2 inch cubes
2 onions finely chopped
1 Tbs chopped garlic
3 stalks celery, sliced fine
2 green peppers, chopped
1/4 C olive oil
1/2 C chopped parsley, or 1 heaping Tbs dried
2 tsp dried basil
4 oz sliced mushrooms
1 lb Italian plum tomatoes or 1 lb crushed canned
3 Tbs red wine vinegar (or more to taste, up to 1/2 C even)
1 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 C raisins
1/4 C chopped green olives
1 tsp salt (more if you don't use anchovies)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C chopped black olives
2 Tbs capers (optional, but I love them)
1/4 C browned pine nuts or sunflower seeds

Saute first 12 ingredients together in the olive oil until soft and limp, about 15 minutes. Add in tomatoes and saute over med heat another 10-15 minutes. Stir in vinegar and remainder of ingredients except nuts and saute for 5 more minutes. Take off heat and let sit for several hours or overnight in the fridge to blend flavors. Stir nuts in last.

To cook in crockpot: Combine all ingredients up to and including the raisins in the crockpot and cook on low for 5 - 6 hours. Stir in the remaining ingredients and let sit for several hours or overnight in the fridge to blend flavors. Stir in nuts last.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Vegan Gaucho Beans

Sorry, no picture since I'm in the throes of unpacking after a move and my camera is..... somewhere......

Years ago, my parents fell in love with a Basque restaurant in California's Central Valley. Everytime they were within a hundred miles, they would stop and eat, and then rave about the food to me, particularly the beans. Now is a good time to tell you that my father has always been crazy about beans - any kind of beans, cooked any way. Being a good New England boy, his favorite has always been homemade Boston baked beans, but that will be another post. Anyway, they asked for the recipe of these beans many times, but never received it. I ate at that restaurant twice, and after the second time, my mother and I decided to try to duplicate the flavor. First, I went to the library to look at Basque cookbooks, or should I say, cookbook, which had one bean recipe with the interesting addition of coffee as the liquid. So, we experimented and finally came up with a recipe which is delicious and tastes pretty similar. We called it Gaucho Beans. It called for bacon and beef bouillion powder, so I veganized it here. Check out the omni version of this recipe here on my omni food blog.

I had this for dinner over rice last night, with a salad on the side and some applesauce for dessert. It was a pretty filling and delicious dinner, with plenty of leftovers for lunch this week.

Gaucho Beans

1 lb dry beans, picked over and soaked overnight (I used cranberry beans this time)
1 lg onion, quartered, then sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp rosemary
1/8 tsp thyme
2 whole cloves
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp veggie broth powder
1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce (I used 1tsp Sriracha)
2 Tbs fruit vinegar (I used raspberry)
2 oz brandy
olive oil to saute the onion
2 C coffee (or 1tsp instant coffee powder plus 2 C water)
3 C water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 C or more chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp Liquid Smoke

Saute the onions and garlic until wilted. Add the rosemary, thyme, cloves, mustard, cumin, bay leaf, chili powder and Tabasco, and saute for a minute or two to bring out the flavor without burning the spices. Add the bouillion powder, vinegar and brandy and saute another minute, then add 2 cups strong coffee, 3 cups water and the soaked and drained beans. Note that there is no salt or pepper - add salt at the end of cooking, since salt tends to toughen bean skins when added during cooking.

Crock pot: cook on low for 8 - 10 hours

Pressure cooker: cook at 15 lbs pressure for 12 minutes

Stove top: simmer gently, partially covered, for about an hour.

When beans are creamy soft, but still retain their shape and have not burst, stir in salt and pepper to taste (I used an equal amount of Tony Chachere's seasoning salt). Stir in the cilantro and Liquid Smoke just prior to serving. Lightly mash a few of the beans to give the liquid some body and serve over rice, potatoes or noodles, or even as a side dish. This would be particularly delicious over cornmeal waffles, I think.